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After Sandy Hook And Virginia Tech, I’m Done With Violent Video Games
December 20, 2012 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Jeremy Norman, an avid gamer for nearly 30 years, says violent games may have had nothing to do with shooting tragedies, but they no longer "provide an entertaining release." Norman was a reporter during the Virginia Tech shootings and now has children a few years younger than the ones killed in Newtown. "I don't want to explain to my son why daddy is shooting the guys on the television. Why that's okay, but when it happens in real life, people cry."
posted by winecork (181 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here's an idea. Don't play violent games around kids who are too young to understand the difference between reality and fiction.
Also, maybe don't ask the world to change based on what you are and aren't willing to do. Can you realistically expect all kids to stop playing army mans or superheroes or cowboys (do kids play cowboys anymore?) fuck it, space marines, which have all pre-existed violent video games?
Nope.
I understand that you're view of the world changes when your kids reach a certain age, but the actual world doesn't, no matter how much agonized hand-wringing you publish on the internets.
posted by mikoroshi at 9:10 AM on December 20, 2012 [16 favorites]


Here's an idea. Don't play violent games around kids who are too young to understand the difference between reality and fiction.

Yes. The problem is not the games, it's the games being played around or by kids who are too young.
posted by Dasein at 9:11 AM on December 20, 2012


I don't think the entire world needs to make sense to children. Hell, I'm an adult and there are things that don't make sense to me.

I do, however, think that if he's playing a very violent game around a young child who would ask such a question, then he has made a terrible mistake.

Real life is one thing. Fantasy is another. Kids get that.

Now let's keep the Call of Duty games away from your kids, Mr. Norman.
posted by inturnaround at 9:12 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously. Would you watch an R-rated movie in front of your kids? Then why would you play an M-rated game in front of them?
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:13 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


[Wow, from zero to "fuck you" in four comments? Try again and try harder folks, it's been a tough week for everyone.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:14 AM on December 20, 2012 [25 favorites]


While no one has shown violent games cause violence, many studies have shown it desensitizes people.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:14 AM on December 20, 2012 [13 favorites]


Guys he addresses that right in the article.

"I have never played a violent game in front of him, but he already sees and hears and imitates more than I could ever realize (including, to my chagrin, some of my saltier language), so I don't want to have that conversation. Not yet."
posted by saturday_morning at 9:14 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, maybe don't ask the world to change based on what you are and aren't willing to do.
He's not asking the world to change. He's describing how he decided to change his own behavior.
posted by cnelson at 9:15 AM on December 20, 2012 [31 favorites]


mikoroshi: "Here's an idea. Don't play violent games around kids who are too young to understand the difference between reality and fiction. "

He said that he doesn't play violent games in front of his kid. And really, I don't think the point of the article was "Nobody should play violent games", but more a reflection on how the shootings at Virginia Tech and Newtown personally impacted him to the point where he's not comfortable playing violent games. When games stop being an escape and start being a reminder of terrible things you've seen, there's not really a point to them.

In other words, it's not that playing games has desensitized him to violence, it's that real life violence has sensitized him to violence in games.
posted by specialagentwebb at 9:16 AM on December 20, 2012 [44 favorites]


Hey did anyone actually RTFA?

I have never played a violent game in front of him, but he already sees and hears and imitates more than I could ever realize...

Please understand that I am not, in any way shape or form, saying that violent video games had anything to do with this or any other tragedy...

I have long held the belief that adults should be able to choose their entertainment of choice...


When my son reaches his late teens, I pray that he is able to find simple entertainment in whatever the newest iteration there is of Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, and the like. Entertainment, and nothing more.


This isn't about you, this is about HIM. This is about his reaction to a couple of very public tragedies. Chill the fuck out.
posted by Mister_A at 9:16 AM on December 20, 2012 [41 favorites]


...and he'll move to Canada if Romney is elected, right? Is this a contest to see who can publicly renounce anything tangentially related to mass shootings?

Guys, I'm not going to read any book that features a gun. Sorry Chekhov.
posted by basicchannel at 9:17 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Difficult to explain to children" is the modern version of the 1980's "Won't someone PLEASE think of the children?!?!"

Funny how most parents have no problem shoving loads of absurd and self-contradicting theology at children from a very young age, but apparently video games are just too much for them to handle.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:17 AM on December 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


It seems to me that the point of the article is to show a reversal in the hoary, old and specious arguments against violent video games: instead of violent video games supposedly leading to school shootings, for this guy, school shootings spoiled violent video games. I'm sorry if this is saying something obvious.
posted by curuinor at 9:17 AM on December 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


The level of knee-jerk defensiveness here is amazing. Not once in the article does he even suggest that he's telling you not to play video games. Heck, he even says he hopes his son plays them and innocently enjoys them when he gets older.
posted by straight at 9:17 AM on December 20, 2012 [42 favorites]


Also, maybe don't ask the world to change based on what you are and aren't willing to do.

Yeah, how dare this guy write an article about how he, personally, is being the change he wants to see in the world.
posted by gauche at 9:18 AM on December 20, 2012 [21 favorites]


Folks, the contest to see who can most vividly demonstrate they didn't read/completely failed to understand the article is next week. No points accumulate until 12:00 am Sunday, PST. You can still be accurate and on topic for the next 2 1/2 days.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:20 AM on December 20, 2012 [47 favorites]


"Difficult to explain to children" is the modern version of the 1980's "Won't someone PLEASE think of the children?!?!"

Didn't RTFA is the nice version of YOU DIDN'T READ THE FUCKING ARTICLE DID YOU
posted by Mister_A at 9:21 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I just don't want to do it anymore. I don't want to disassociate myself, saying it's just a game."

"My decision to give up violent gaming is based upon self-preservation. No longer does a game provide an entertaining release. Instead it simply opens old wounds."

He sounds like someone who is trying to become re-sensitized to the realities of violence. Good on him for being willing to talk about it.
posted by Tevin at 9:21 AM on December 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm willing to consider that violent video games desensitize kids to actual violence, or some kids. And that not all parents are going to be wise parents and keep their kids away from blood and guts games; and that the nihilism inherent in some of the games could affect the chemistry of of the developing adolescent brain. I'm willing to consider all these things because the rise of the school/mass shootings does seem to coincide with gaming as a cultural preoccupation of older boys/young men - often the perpetrators in the shootings.

Not saying the games are to be banned, and yes I've seen the graphic about how kids in Scandinavia or wherever also play violent video games and have guns and don't engage in all the school shootings. But that gets back to the broader point - what is it in the American psyche/culture that causes this? Takes lots of ingredients to make the stew.
posted by kgasmart at 9:23 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Awesome, we've reached sub-kotaku quality comments.

Listen: It'd be interesting if you'd read this as an essay rather than a polemic.
posted by boo_radley at 9:23 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not once in the article does he even suggest that he's telling you not to play video games. Heck, he even says he hopes his son plays them and innocently enjoys them when he gets older.

Not only does the article not talk about me playing violent games, it barely talks about his kid playing them and when he does touch on that he says that he hopes his kid can play them. It's an article purely about how he sees violence in games. It's not a "someone think of the kids" article at all.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:24 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good article. What struck me the most was that he basically says that he's quitting videogames not that he's just quitting violent games specifically. This struck me because, while games have certainly made strides in different directions, violent conflict is still at the center of most games and are the easiest subjects to communicate via the game media. Perhaps, in the future, the author's son could enjoy gaming in an era when the medium is more varied and has figured out how to better tackle other subjects.
posted by sendai sleep master at 9:24 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoa whoa whoa people! Stop grinding those axes, they're worn down almost to nubs!

Unless I'm missing something all this guy is saying is, "I used to play violent video games, but having seen the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting firsthand, I don't have the stomach for them anymore."
posted by usonian at 9:24 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's an interesting point. Largely-violent games hold very little interest for me anymore, and mostly it's a question of, "the world is shitty enough, why do I need that in my video game?"

I feel the same way about movies, mostly. Today's post about everybody's annual-top-ten lists, which feature Oh Dark Thirty on the movie list almost to a one, make me wonder why anybody would want to watch that. There are certain types of violence I just don't want to see or experience vicariously.

I will admit, though, to making an exception for mirthful, cartoonish violence--slasher films, Grand Theft Auto, Tarantino films. It just doesn't push the same buttons for me.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:26 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Setting aside the issue of the link between violent video games and violence. (I don't believe there is one, personally.) I am right there with this guy in wanting video games where you don't kill people.

If you don't want to kill stuff, your video game options are limited. It seems like about 90% of video games require you to kill people. That is the whole point of the game: killing people.

Aside from expressing an embarrassing dearth of imagination, this policy (of making games about killing people) is video game companies leaving a lot of money on the table. Because games where you don't kill people often do quite well. Look at the entire casual gaming market. Look at the Sims franchise, which is one of the bestselling video game franchises of all time.

(You CAN kill people in the Sims games. Lord knows I have, many times over. But you can also enjoy the game just fine without killing.)

A lot of independent games branch out into other forms of puzzles and narrative. There's a huge untapped market for non-violent video games, but it's being ignored because the industry insists on targeting the "18-22 year old male" audience. Foolish of them, if you ask me.
posted by ErikaB at 9:27 AM on December 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


The level of knee-jerk defensiveness here is amazing.

And I'm seeing exactly the same thing in the comments on the linked-to article. It's not speaking well of the maturity levels, reading comprehension, and ability to empathize in people who are invested in gaming.;-)
posted by orange swan at 9:27 AM on December 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


I just finished reading On My Way to Paradise and this is really resonant right now.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:30 AM on December 20, 2012


Jeremy Norman, an avid gamer for nearly 30 years, says violent games may have had nothing to do with shooting tragedies,

Well, sorry there Jeremy Norman, but that's the same sort of idiotic denial that you hear from the NRA. Guns don't kill people: people kill people. Maybe you gamers can get together with the NRA and use the same spokesperson and save us from having to hear this bullshit twice. Haring it once is more than enough.
posted by three blind mice at 9:30 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Increasingly, I am with him.

I love video games, and many of the games I have loved have been violent ones. When I was a teenager, in years immediately leading up the Columbine shooting, I was really into level creation for Doom. I made maps of my school and had a great time running through the halls killing things. Somehow that didn't push me over the edge into shooting up my actual school. Because, obviously, video games don't magically erase existing ethical codes, nor do they render otherwise healthy people incapable of telling fantasy from reality.

But, as I get older and become more sensitive to ubiquity of violence in the world and the real horror it causes, I start to be less and less convinced that engaging in play that normalizes, trivializes, and glorifies shooting human beings with guns is entirely healthy. At the very, games where the player is a bouncing gun have lost all appeal to me.
posted by 256 at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


It seems like about 90% of video games require you to kill people.

And 85% of statistics stated in Internet comments are made up on the spot.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I agree with the sentiment that it's hard to explain to a kid why violent video games are not like real life violence and that is exactly why you don't play violent video games with kids around. Personally though I feel like articles like this make it seem like video games do have something to do with real life violence. I have never once felt a single thing about a video game character.

We need to shield our children from violence and if that means stopping playing altogether for this guy that's fine but writing about it as such serious business worries me. More fodder for the "hey video game violence does mean something" when the argument needs to be "keep your kids away."
posted by M Edward at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2012


The problem I've always had with the presumed connection between violent entertainment and real violence is that it's so far outside my own experience. I can't remember a time when I couldn't tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Star Wars is my earliest memory. GI Joe taught me to read. But early on in life, Mom said, "War is fun for movies and make-believe, but in real life it's very sad and real peoples' mommies and daddies and their children die."

I saw the Terminator when I was... um... ten, maybe? And mom HAD to know why I stayed up so late at night in the summer watching Cinemax, but I never grew up thinking that sexuality was really like that...

...so what's so different about my upbringing that I didn't follow this apparent pattern?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:33 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems like about 90% of video games require you to kill people.

And 85% of statistics stated in Internet comments are made up on the spot.


Nope. 88%.
posted by nevercalm at 9:33 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is silly. It's okay to quit playing video games cold turkey (I did) but to try to make associations where there are none is silly. His child will not be less likely to shoot up some place just because he nor his daddy played video games. I do not agree with his argument. But hey more power to him.
posted by xicana63 at 9:34 AM on December 20, 2012


Quick story about a recent experience in violence in video games:

I started Fallout 3 a couple weeks ago. The player is a nuclear fallout survivor who lives with other survivors in a vault. Things are run by some guy named the Overseer, who happens to be the father of the player's best friend. He runs things like you would expect someone named the Overseer to run things: like a dictator.

Eventually it turns out that the Overseer is trying to capture the player's father. You're tipped off by your best friend about her father's wily machinations. As you are escaping from the Vault, you happen upon a room where you see your best friend being interrogated by the Overseer and a guard (the game helpfully tells you character names when you mouse over them).

In my zeal to save my friend, I rushed into the room and accidentally killed the Overseer without realizing: this is her father!

My friend would no longer speak to me. She told me to leave and never come back.

I left the vault with genuine sadness. I haven't picked up the game since then.

I'm not sure I can handle something like that, where my choices matter and the consequences of my choices have real weight.

All that to say: I grok where this guy is coming from.
posted by Tevin at 9:35 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I relate deeply. I don't like violence or suffering to be featured on my screen as entertainment. If there is a documentary that involves difficult content or even a really well made film that has a purpose in portraying suffering/violence/tragedy beyond it's pornographic evocative shock entertainment value I will some times watch such content, but in general I find most justifications of watching depictions of graphic violence and horrible human suffering seem to fall short. I know suffering exists and is horrible. I already care about people in suffering. Romantacizing violence and suffering makes no sense to me.

People like rubber necking and spooky stories and amphitheators because people like watching suffering from a distance-- without having to get involved.

I don't like this human trait at all, prefering a spectator role to watching suffering than actually looking at the suffering that ACTUALLY EXISTS and doing something about it. Which is all around us and we don't have to turn on a little box to see it. What's more when we immerse ourselves in the real suffering of people around us, we can make a difference. We get a chance to change the story, to bring joy or good things. Of course, I watch a lot of My Little Ponies.... (srsly friendship is magic!)
posted by xarnop at 9:35 AM on December 20, 2012


We often have discussions on mefi about misogyny and rape culture in gaming. Most people here acknowledge that it's a problem. It's interesting that people seem less inclined to view violence in gaming as a contribution to wider societal ills.
posted by desjardins at 9:36 AM on December 20, 2012 [21 favorites]


..and just one more bit if I may add, is he going to shield his son as he gets older from the news? Have you turned on CNN and seen images of beheading in Mexico by drug cartels or the atrocities of war/violence in other countries. We cannot shield our children from violence but we can teach them about peace and instilling values in them.
posted by xicana63 at 9:36 AM on December 20, 2012


Yeah, we had that point last year - the 3y.o. (2 at the time) likes bright and shiny cartoons, and we were watching the Avengers cartoon on Netflix. There's... a lot of hitting in that show. Lots and lots of hitting and excessively aggressive behavior. And watching it with her, we were uncomfortable with how intently she was watching, and also aware that she's gotten in trouble a few times for hitting at daycare. So... maybe later, when she can more easily separate fantasy from reality?

On the other hand, in the '80s "Spiderman and his Amazing Friends" show, there's almost no hitting at all, lots of distance attacks with ice-rays and fire blasts and webs and clever teamwork instead. So she can watch that on Netflix, and she does, and insists that she's Firestar and Mommy is Ice-Man.

"So that means I'm Spider-Man, right?"
"No, Daddy. That's silly! Ha ha ha!"

Sigh.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:37 AM on December 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Unless I'm missing something all this guy is saying is, "I used to play violent video games, but having seen the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting firsthand, I don't have the stomach for it anymore."

Yep. I've only ever played Pong, so am not equipped to comment on violent video games. I can comment on the attitude of some gamers toward any criticism of their preferred choice of entertainment however, and extremely defensive is how I would describe some of them.

Casual depiction of violence can desensitize some to its real-world implications, at least in my own experience. I had the very traumatic experience of being the first to arrive at a head-on collision on a highway many years ago that forever affected my ability to just casually absorb fictional violence. I had to crawl into a camper that was soaked in spilled gasoline to look for passengers, as another onlooker held onto my legs, while the passengers in the truck and car on fire beside us died screaming in the flames. I have never been able to witness a Hollywood stye flaming auto-wreck since without physical revulsion. I have friends who find this reaction amusing. I firmly believe that if they had been forced to decide which of three people to save, and had someone die bleeding from their brain in their arms, that they too might find some of these games less entertaining.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:37 AM on December 20, 2012 [21 favorites]


It was not clear in the article, but he definitely doesn't need to quit games entirely. Portal would be a good choice - and I know a 4 year old who could talk him through all the puzzles. I'm very fond of Katamari Damacy myself (though I'm very bad at it), and I've heard great things about Psychonauts (a bit darker than Katamari Damacy, and the jumping is really hard).

And there are games where there may be violence, but it's not exactly realistic or like real-life: in They Bleed Pixels, you're a girl fighting monsters with her massive lobster-claw hands. (Disclaimer: I know one of the designers - and it's WAY too hard for me).

/not a gamer, but I know a lot of them
posted by jb at 9:38 AM on December 20, 2012


that's a great point, desjardins.

It has its roots in the tireless defense against ill-informed lawyers who liked to blame video games for every problem under the sun.

The time has passed for us to be on the defensive, though. Conversations like this are good. Why don't we take a critical look at violence?
posted by Tevin at 9:38 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


We often have discussions on mefi about misogyny and rape culture in gaming. Most people here acknowledge that it's a problem. It's interesting that people seem less inclined to view violence in gaming as a contribution to wider societal ills.

The connection to misogyny and rape culture is much easier to make when one looks at the dialogue on video game chat channels and boards. They then act out this attitude at conventions and expos. Yet few of those gamers actually go out and shoot people.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:39 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


His child will not be less likely to shoot up some place just because he nor his daddy played video games. I do not agree with his argument.

...that wasn't his argument, in fact he said he hopes his child does play video games when he's a little older, and never once said anything at all about how likely his kid is to commit murder
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:39 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


xicana63: "..and just one more bit if I may add, is he going to shield his son as he gets older from the news? Have you turned on CNN and seen images of beheading in Mexico by drug cartels or the atrocities of war/violence in other countries. We cannot shield our children from violence but we can teach them about peace and instilling values in them."


Soooo I'm going to get a quotation from the link out of the way:
I have never played a violent game in front of him, but he already sees and hears and imitates more than I could ever realize (including, to my chagrin, some of my saltier language), so I don't want to have that conversation. Not yet.
What are you, xicana63, arguing for? More importantly, what are you arguing against?
posted by boo_radley at 9:39 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Slap*Happy: I've been astounded at the sheer amount of violence in the recent Avengers cartoons. It's vastly out of scale with the original comics, too. Every episode is wall-to-wall violence from about the second or third minute on.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:40 AM on December 20, 2012


I had similar thoughts as the author the first time I played Grand Theft Auto 3 over a decade ago. Having grown up playing games like Wolfenstein 3d, Doom, and Quake from a very early age, I never had any complaints about violent video games, but after five minutes of GTA3 play, I was done, forever. Maybe it was the graphics, maybe it was the gameplay, maybe it was watching other people playing the game gleefully kill innocent NPCs, but something about it crossed a personal line, and I have never looked back.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:41 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not speaking well of the maturity levels, reading comprehension, and ability to empathize in people who are invested in gaming.;-)

Well, this does go both ways. That is, the need for some mature adults to indulge in such intense and violent fun is genuinely puzzling to many.

Without calling it WRONG and/or accusing it of being a root cause of this/that real world horror, I don't think it's unfair to call it ... puzzling, disconcerting. I don't think it's unfair to wonder what it says about a culture that -

A few days ago I was reeling in shock/horror at what had happened in Newtown
Last night, I was eviscerating bad guys with various cool weaponry

Step one, I guess, is to get outside the notion that there are only two sides to this issue.

But also , this ...

I can comment on the attitude of some gamers toward any criticism of their preferred choice of entertainment however, and extremely defensive is how I would describe some of them. the attitude of some gamers toward any criticism of their preferred choice of entertainment however, and extremely defensive is how I would describe some of them.
posted by philip-random at 9:42 AM on December 20, 2012


We often have discussions on mefi about misogyny and rape culture in gaming. Most people here acknowledge that it's a problem. It's interesting that people seem less inclined to view violence in gaming as a contribution to wider societal ills.

The misogyny in gaming spills over into gamer culture; the violence does not. Note that this is not the perfect natural experiment that shows an inverse correlation between gaming and violence, but it's good enough to rebut arguments via appeals to ignorance (see, e.g., Jack Thompson, Congress, etc.).
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:43 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


says violent games may have had nothing to do with shooting tragedies, but they no longer "provide an entertaining release."

I can understand that. Once you make a real-world connection to something, it can really change how you perceive it.

Like when I was younger, I had no problem watching gore in a film. Since the time I had cut my hand badly, I would wince greatly whenever I saw any stabbing on TV.
posted by Theta States at 9:46 AM on December 20, 2012


Whether or not there is 'spillover' is irrelevant.

I don't want there to be no sexism in gaming because it 'makes' gamers into sexist assholes. I want it to stop because it's reprehensible!

I want less violence in video games not because it turns me into a murderer but because I'd like my hobby to reflect the better parts of humanity!
posted by Tevin at 9:46 AM on December 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


I want less violence in video games not because it turns me into a murderer but because I'd like my hobby to reflect the better parts of humanity!

As always, the solution to expressive content that you disagree with is to create or fund additional expressive content that you DO agree with.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:49 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Y'know, I watched a ten-minute promo video for Far Cry 3 yesterday, and I'd be all about it... but there was just enough about the premise to make me worry that the "kidnapped friends" storyline would get kinda rapey, and I really don't want to play a video game with that.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:49 AM on December 20, 2012


...so what's so different about my upbringing that I didn't follow this apparent pattern?

There is no apparent pattern. You are like most people.
posted by General Tonic at 9:50 AM on December 20, 2012


Did anyone else do a double-take when they saw the headline? I never would have taken the opera singer Jessye Norman as a fan of, say, "Grand Theft Auto".
posted by pxe2000 at 9:50 AM on December 20, 2012


I switched to interactive fiction a while back. An occasional shoot-em-up with my brother and his friends is still fun (mostly because his friends are so amusing) but beyond that, I don't really get it anymore.

Let me ratify other posters' comments about the strength and rapidity of the defensive comments above.

Let me agree with the author of TFA that parenthood does change your outlook on things.
posted by newdaddy at 9:55 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gun enthusiasts: "Guns don't kill people, people do!"

Games enthusiasts: "Violent video games are fantasy and have no effect on behaviour whatsoever!"

Seriously, though, while I understand the appeal of FPS games, I can barely even watch movies where people get killed, let alone play games where the object is to waste other people. Something happened at around the age of 35, where killing in any medium became a source of sadness.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:56 AM on December 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


PareidoliaticBoy: Yep. I've only ever played Pong, so am not equipped to comment on violent video games. I can comment on the attitude of some gamers toward any criticism of their preferred choice of entertainment however, and extremely defensive is how I would describe some of them.

Some of it is triggered by the fact that some critics have been dishonest, hyperbolic, and moralistic (in a bad way) in their attempts to impose regulation on games. But I'm of the opinion that if games are going to be considered an artistic medium, we need to develop the same kind of critical language that we have for photography and cinema.

Inspector.Gadget: The misogyny in gaming spills over into gamer culture; the violence does not.

I think it's a bit of a systems feedback loop. A chunk of the misogyny comes from "gaming culture" largely defining itself as a bit of an insular boyzone. This feeds back into how big-budget games are developed for what's perceived to be their core market. Of course, "gaming culture" curiously defines itself as being mostly about big-budget PC and console games and not "casual" games.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:58 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]




Good article. What struck me the most was that he basically says that he's quitting videogames not that he's just quitting violent games specifically. This struck me because, while games have certainly made strides in different directions, violent conflict is still at the center of most games and are the easiest subjects to communicate via the game media. Perhaps, in the future, the author's son could enjoy gaming in an era when the medium is more varied and has figured out how to better tackle other subjects.
posted by sendai sleep master at 9:24 AM on December 20 [+] [!]


It would be good for North American mass-media to grow up a little. There's something cultural going on in America that's leading to some very bad things, and the non-stop violence in games and movies may be a symptom or contributing factor.

Even if we're not concerned about kids accidentally learning things from video games, it would probably be good for the entire medium to grow up a bit. There must be other stories to tell, and other mechanisms to tell them through. Pushing those boundaries and trying new things can only be good. A short list of games have started to push those boundaries, and have largely been praised for it.

It is worth keeping in mind that most mainstream games are being made by a rapidly shrinking number of very large media companies. Huge projects, with tons of people involved, and a definite eye on profit margins. I think that pushes them towards being conservative, and probably explains why most of the interesting games have been indie hits. Major game studios are more Hollywood than anything else.

I'm sure this could be cross-referenced to the Far Cry thread. There are some pretty bleak depictions of race, gender and violence in games these days... and even without kids, I'm not sure I can stand sitting through it, or want to explain it to my girlfriend or friends. The content of video games often makes them hard for me to enjoy, even when the game mechanics are fantastic.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:05 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's possible to present violence in games in a way that puts it a world apart from the real kind that has effects beyond making you wait to respawn. This is mostly a matter of presentation: I've heard pretty serious arguments from the likes of Yahtzee Croshaw that the Call of Duty games are much the same as neoconservative propaganda like Zero Dark Thirty; but present the same kind of gameplay in a different style and you might have Team Fortress 2.

To address desjardin's point, this is also true of potentially misogynist material: when first Samus lost her armor in Metroid: Zero Mission, and had to race through the next segment in what more or less amounted to her underwear, it didn't come off all that exploitative, because there was a logical reason for it, and the game didn't linger--she moved even faster than usual, and needed to. Her appearance in the "zero suit" in Super Smash Bros. Brawl was iffier, since that game has hardly any story, but the game emphasizes agility a lot, and in any case you can play her in her power suit if you want. Other M was much more offensive, because the only reason given for going without her suit is that she wasn't cleared to wear it. Earlier games treated it as her own possession.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:05 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


the solution to expressive content that you disagree with is to create or fund additional expressive content that you DO agree with.

That's one solution, or one part of the solution. Another part is talking about what you don't like, and why you don't like it, and convincing others to agree with you.
posted by cdward at 10:06 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love games, but for years I have found it too difficult and unpleasant to play games where I am committing violence against actual humans. Even anthropomorphic monsters are okay--the zombies in the Left 4 Dead series, the Splicers in Bioshock, or the cartoons of Team Fortress 2...I am ok with those. But the humans of F.E.A.R, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike--I've lost my taste for it, I don't know why. Even the Grand Theft Auto series. I don't know why, I can't explain it, but killing realistic humans makes me uncomfortable in a way that I just don't enjoy those games. So I avoid them. I don't judge anyone else who doesn't, though. To each his own.

Just like any form of entertainment, video games can be the subject of unhealthy obsessions and a tool for unhealthy objectification of other humans. Check your head, check the head of your children, check the heads of your friends, once in awhile.
posted by oneironaut at 10:07 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tevin: “I want less violence in video games not because it turns me into a murderer but because I'd like my hobby to reflect the better parts of humanity!”

Inspector.Gadget: “As always, the solution to expressive content that you disagree with is to create or fund additional expressive content that you DO agree with.”

I get the feeling that what you mean to say here is that there really should be no legislation against violent video games, as that's an unnecessary restriction of the freedom of speech. I think every single person in this thread agrees on that. I also think that it's worth having a conversation about what violence in video games means. Having this conversation does not mean we're going into Jack Thompson territory. We are allowed to express our feelings about what we think does and does not belong as far as depictions of violence in the media. This is not a binary argument where one is either for video games or against them.

And, yeah, I'll go out on this limb – I agree with Tevin. There are a hell of a lot of games out there right now that are violent and mindless in ways that aren't really up to the level of dignity and respect that humanity deserves. What are we going to do about that? Obviously not pass some stupid law; that would be against our principles. But that doesn't mean we can't talk about it and vote with our dollars.
posted by koeselitz at 10:15 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


We should put violent video games into the upcoming gun control legislation. Maybe certain books, too.
posted by clarknova at 10:18 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, as I have gotten older (and a father), I have really started to have an issue with games where the primary method of interacting with the world is violence. Probably the modern game I have been most disappointed with is Assassin's Creed 2. The world is beautiful and the setting is exactly the time period I love reading about the most, but it's also so sterile and empty. There are people wandering around pretending to do lots of "normal" things... occasionally you stab them. It just feels sad. Your character feels like a mentally deranged sociopath who likes climbing.

I recently picked up De Blob 2, a "kids game", and the difference is striking. De Blob has a really marked, creative, positive impact on the world he passes through. It feels a lot more satisfying. I really wish more games were like that.
posted by selfnoise at 10:19 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is why I'm glad games like Portal exist, and are very popular, as it helps continue a long line of interesting, compelling video games that don't require shooting people in the head.

my son has been playing, on and off, Sonic The Hedgehog since he was a 3 or 4 or somesuch; it was his first video game. When you jump on the evil creatures, it pops their robotic shell open and reveals the bunny or whatever trapped inside, freeing it. I played this game as a teenager incessantly, and I don't remember ever being put off by the fact that I was freeing bunnies rather than killing people. I see no reason why the same thing can't happen to my son.
posted by davejay at 10:19 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I get the feeling that what you mean to say here is that there really should be no legislation against violent video games, as that's an unnecessary restriction of the freedom of speech. I think every single person in this thread agrees on that.

I hope so. Unfortunately, history suggests that some people that are uncomfortable with a certain type of expression will usually try to ban it, and as I take MetaFilter to be a bastion of intelligent and reasonable people, my concern is merely that the louder-but-less-thoughtful types seen in abundance elsewhere will make such an effort.

I also don't trust that some courts, particularly state trial courts, will get the First Amendment analysis right the first time if such legislation does come to pass (high-profile tragic events have in my lifetime mostly generated incredibly stupid laws, e.g. the Patriot Act).
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:21 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yesterday I got to substitute-teach for an hour in my son's fifth-grade class. Fifth graders are all about Minecraft, which led to lots of video game talk, beyond just Minecraft. I was so sad to find that about half the kids in that class not only play Call of Duty, but play multiplayer online with chat. Both of those things can be awesome and fun experiences, but my god, there's no way 10-year-olds should be doing them.

I said something to one of the boys, along the lines of "What are you doing playing that game? It's rated M, it's for adults!" He looked at me with utter confusion, like, what difference does that make? "My parents bought it for me!"
posted by jbickers at 10:23 AM on December 20, 2012


Gun enthusiasts: "Guns don't kill people, people do!"

Games enthusiasts: "Violent video games are fantasy and have no effect on behaviour whatsoever!"


The difference between the USA and countries with much lower incidence of gun violence is not that the kids in those other countries don't play violent video games. (Nor is there any evidence of a big uptick in gun murders since Doom came out.)
posted by straight at 10:23 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


We should put violent video games into the upcoming gun control legislation. Maybe certain books, too.

So, here's where someone says "A book never killed anyone" and you can deliver that witty line you've been working on about Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto, and all of the gun-control folks will fall over under the weight of your argument. A regular modern-day Swift.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:26 AM on December 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, there should be a question asked. Why is the shooting-other-people thing such an attractive fantasy and all those others (basically everything else) not? All the defensiveness is not to prevent video games from being censored (never going to answer in America) but rather an attempt, conscious or not, at avoiding the question.

Basically the violent games have won the market so completely that they've crowded out all competitors. I'm not going to take my elementary school kids into a mall brick-and-mortar store to look for an appropriate game for them because it's such a threatening environment. The game industry should give that a thought. We're basically a market they've entirely abdicated.
posted by newdaddy at 10:28 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, I know. I live in Canada. It was a joke.

However, as a parent I can tell you that playing video games does influence the behaviour of my kids, and I'm not the only one. To some extent I regret ever getting Wii, and we definitely won't be upgrading to an X-Box anytime soon. The Wii's and the DS's provide some social capital on the playground, and have some great games, but I am uncomfortable with the addictive behaviours gaming fosters in children.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:28 AM on December 20, 2012


I said something to one of the boys, along the lines of "What are you doing playing that game? It's rated M, it's for adults!" He looked at me with utter confusion, like, what difference does that make? "My parents bought it for me!"

Yep. Which is why the whole "Parents should regulate what their kids play/watch/do" thing is a canard. Good parents will. Other not-so-good parents won't. And parents convinced their kid could never turn into Adam Lanza will give their kids access to all of it because their little angel would never do such a thing.
posted by kgasmart at 10:30 AM on December 20, 2012


Inspector.Gadget: “I hope so. Unfortunately, history suggests that some people that are uncomfortable with a certain type of expression will usually try to ban it, and as I take MetaFilter to be a bastion of intelligent and reasonable people, my concern is merely that the louder-but-less-thoughtful types seen in abundance elsewhere will make such an effort. I also don't trust that some courts, particularly state trial courts, will get the First Amendment analysis right the first time if such legislation does come to pass (high-profile tragic events have in my lifetime mostly generated incredibly stupid laws, e.g. the Patriot Act).”

I disagree. The video game wars are over; we won. Freedom of speech won. There are no significant standing violations of this freedom at this point. Video games are not being restricted, and almost nobody thinks that they should be; this is clear when we note the fact that no serious legislation to do so has even gained traction in the US legislature.

More to the point – if we allow this paranoia about potential violations of the freedom of speech to translate into a fiat ban on all conversations about the impact of video games, then we're giving up a lot as far as public discourse is concerned. This is something we really need to be talking about.
posted by koeselitz at 10:31 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why is the shooting-other-people thing such an attractive fantasy and all those others (basically everything else) not?

Because it's a fun game mechanic that we've managed to emotionally detach from the real-world counterpart. Take Team Fortress 2, for instance, in which you can "play" capture the flag by having your cartoon character burn the other guys to death with a flamethrower - and that guy immediately comes back to life, all healthy and new. The same is true with any multiplayer shooter - death isn't real, it's a game component.
posted by jbickers at 10:31 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]



"Inspector.Gadget: “As always, the solution to expressive content that you disagree with is to create or fund additional expressive content that you DO agree with.”


Most of the games that people are referring to in these discussions aren't produced by individual artists, they're produced by major studios. There's really no way for a well-intentioned individual to replicate that. I think that the critiques resonate all the more heavily considering the primary motivation behind the production of a lot of games is pure profit.

Beyond that, I don't have time to personally shape every media experience I enjoy. I do produce as well as consume, give back to the community and try to improve the world around me, but there isn't time enough in the world for everyone to do everything. Sometimes we can expect better of an industry without having the time or resources to personally change its direction.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:32 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]



Well, there should be a question asked. Why is the shooting-other-people thing such an attractive fantasy and all those others (basically everything else) not? All the defensiveness is not to prevent video games from being censored (never going to answer in America) but rather an attempt, conscious or not, at avoiding the question.


I remember being a little kid in the early 70s fantasizing about such stuff. If only there was some kind of game where you shoot people and they'd actually bleed. Pong would've been the cutting edge game of the moment so it never would've occurred to me it would be a computer game. I just wanted to shoot stuff and have there be results (unlike the games of cops + robbers, cowboys + indians we'd play, running around pretending to kill each other, acting out spectacular deaths etc). No, I didn't want anyone to get hurt. Violence was just cool when it happened in movies like Bullitt, Dirty Harry, French Connection etc (I was sneaking into adult stuff).

and I was hardly alone in this kind of thinking. Hell, it was my generation that grew up and made these fantasies actually attainable -- didn't just invent viscerally violent vid games but also stuff like airsoft wargaming.

My point here -- gaming doesn't incite violence, that violence is like a hunger, already in us. I'm sure Freud etc wrote about it back in the 19th century. So to say that violent games will make us violent is incorrect. But it's equally incorrect to say that violent games have NO effect on us and so SHUT UP, move along, let's talk about something important.

This starts to sound like how the NRA works ... and that troubles the hell out of me.
posted by philip-random at 10:33 AM on December 20, 2012 [7 favorites]



I've been gaming for over 30 years. The article caused me to realize how my taste has changed. I used to play pretty much everything and enjoyed first person shooters. Now I really dislike them. I still play games where you kill things but only really like the ones that are set in some created fantasy world or take place in the distant past. (Assassins Creed games are a favorite). Any game set in a time that could be the present and looks like the present and has lots of killing I don't really like. I don't feel good playing them.

Interesting that I didn't realize this until now. I guess I like my game kills to be more in an obvious fantasy world then closer to this one.
posted by Jalliah at 10:33 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]



It's really good to read this piece.

I've been struggling with violence in video games for a few years now. I've pretty much quit them entirely - my tipping point was reading a World War I history, but there was a lot of groundwork up to that point - and reading someone else's conclusion helps me think about my own decision in new ways. As do some of the comments here.

One reason violence shows up so prominently in games is that it's easy. It's easy to conceptualize and it's easy to program. Classic game visual violence - or aggression, if you'd like something broader - just involves checking to see if two things are touching each other: Pac Man touching a ghost, or the bottom of Mario's feet touching a Goomba, or a bullet touching a soldier. You can go back earlier to MUDs, and the action is removed from a reflexive button and instead becomes a deliberate statement. You have to type kill goblin. You have to do that a LOT. You will type kill goblin thousands of times, along with a lot of other "monsters".

Why is that? Couldn't you program something where, instead of killing the goblins, you sit down and share a beer and some stories with the Goblin King? You can, but that's more difficult to code. It's also more difficult for resonance. It's a much richer experience. I can kill goblin and imagine a few brief sword thrusts and parries, even if the game doesn't provide that level of detail. But imagining a whole evening shooting the shit with the Goblin King? What the beer tastes like, the play of the torchlight shadow in the corners, the chill of the stones and the warmth of the hearth?

The combat and killing is also an easily repeatable action. Our stories - humanity, I mean - are filled, from the deepest recesses of our time, of our heroes dispatching "faceless" foes in tens, hundreds, thousands. And now you're getting really deep into game theory, into both the physical and pychological natures of the actions you, a human being, are taking, and into what a game is, and interesting facets of human neurology - why we keep pushing the button and watching the flashing lights, "othering", a host of things - why, in fact, our games take this shape, why the repeatable action is what fills up so much of the structure.

So if you want to make a game, there's a lot going for violence! For aggression, for simple combat.

I don't have a perfect answer for myself. Some media violence I'm alright with some of the time, but not others. I'm also at the point where I've sort of gone away from, "Violent media is bad," to, "Violent media is bad for me," which seems to be the conclusion Mr. Norman has come to as well. I say "sort of" because the position that you can remain unaffected by ANYTHING is patently ridiculous. Some people are affected more or less, and some things may have an effect so minor that it only shows up in large aggregate quantities, but everything in this universe effects every other damn thing, all the time. To suggest otherwise is to start picking fights with physics, and that's a fight you lose, every time.

(And we haven't even touched on why violence is, well, such a touchstone, because life, the chemical process that is life, is basically defined by things taking resources from other things - often directly, e.g. wolf eats rabbit - and then attempting to make some kind of copy of itself. Sex and violence! Can't escape it.)

I do have a few games I can make exceptions for, and I think that might have something to do with not having lost some innocence in relation to those (very specific) games, or that some factor of nostalgia or psychology makes it not about the violence, or.. I don't know.

It's a pretty complicated issue.

Thanks for posting the link.

Next up, god games: is it philosophically wrong to create life? It's digital life, it's not real.. but then what IS real? And what are the broader implications for such a stance? Michael continues to think too much about this shit... next time, on MetaFilter Talks About Video Games
posted by curious nu at 10:34 AM on December 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


I thought this article said a lot of what I've been thinking the last few years. I wish it were possible to have a conversation about the violence in media without such a large degree of defensiveness by gamers (I am a gamer, though FPSes generally aren't my thing). I don't want to censor video games, but is it not possible to discuss the fact that while playing a violent video game, one's pleasure receptors are firing like crazy when you're getting points for skillfully killing opponents? I know that for probably 99.9% of gamers this has exactly zero effects in the real world-- the brain thinks of the game mechanics as an abstraction, and many people enjoy these games who would never, ever harm another person. If they are a common thread between shooters (I don't know if they are), it is more likely that it is because they're a common thread between most teens-twenties males than that they have any causative connection to violence. But do they by and large make us better people?

I stopped watching most reality TV (even as a guilty pleasure) largely because I realized that it was affecting my attitudes towards other people. The shows are engineered to play on our existing biases, so women and minorities are often portrayed in stereotypical ways which reinforce any existing misogyny, racism, classism that we already have. Since I want to dismantle and not reinforce those types of attitudes in myself, I decided to stop watching.

I think even if individually we can't alter an industry that's enormously profitable making violent video games, we can each choose against media that's not having a positive effect on us. Violent video games have no effect on you? Great, keep on playing, I don't think anyone should take your games away. But let's at least talk about it.
posted by matcha action at 10:34 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


For the record, I don't think that anyone in this thread has suggested banning violent media.
I'm not sure why it's always necessary to repeat that in these discussions.

You can critique without banning. It's a call for diversity, not a blacklist. Homogeneity is what we have now.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:34 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


For me the transition was music/film rather than gaming though. I used to listen to Dead Kennedies, Throbbing Gristle, Einsturzende neubauten, godflesh, residents, misfits-- always pressuming these performers were making art. Trying to portray or understand something rather than embracing and celebrating the darkness. And I actually DO still think there is a certain amount of exploration of the dark side that can enhance our understanding of ourselves and our world. But a lot of the people I know who were really into that stuff were really messed up people. (including myself). They were very defensive about their habits. Watching Happiness, Valley of the Lost Children, David Lynch films, Gummo, I wouldn't even watch the horror movies but I was exposed to their content in passing by my acquaintances. But how much is actually gained in absorbing disturbing content? How many disturbing or gory films do you need to see to gain whatever it is one gains from this? I think it's kind of a social networking thing-- listing off those movies is like badges of relatable information about who I am and the "depth" I posses by knowing about them and having seen them. And it grows, you have to keep up and you develop a taste for it like coffee or whisky-- But what of that is innate value in the content vs simple primal tribalism in collecting marks of being udated and aware of content that will impress others? Do we really need to watch a video of some dude's snake eating a rabbit for an hour set to Danzig? I mean I admit, as a teen that set off my "cool" meter, but why in the shit is that so? What is up with some of us humans and what makes us see experiences as impressive? That is messed up.

I think our culture celebrates violence in general and video games are just one aspect of that. I think it is really important to examine why this is and whether it actually has ZERO affect on human empathy and instinct to indulge ourselves in extremely disturbing content all the time. I don't mean that as a judgement... I believe in harm reduction. Often we're getting something out of behaviors we do repeatedly but usually there's a better way if we look for a better solution when possible. Understanding and reflection (and science) can help elucidate what is actually being gained by such behaviors and what the ramifications are to the self and society. Small things like this DO have effects. It's hard to understand because the ripples blend in a sea of different kinds of effects from variables interacting with each other but it would be unscientific for there to be no effect. There is always an effect. There are many effects. Human behavior is (to a biological determinist leaning person)-- nothing BUT a sea of ripples of effects interacting with each other and the world. Defining them as negative, nuetral, or beneficial is a matter of perception; but if human health and well being and societal harmony are the goal then negative or beneficial could be based in those measurable effects.

What's more I think in the US we are very isolationist. "Well if other people aren't raising their kids well it's not my problem"

What if instead we considered ouselves part of a village that does include kids? And who WILL be effected by our behavior whether we blame their parents for it or not? Don't get me wrong, I think parents should do better too, but that doesn't mean we are therefore just in doing whatever we want without at least thinking of how it affects people around us. I think more adults have the (AWESOME) ability to not have kids until or if they want them but that also means that a lot of adults don't relate to how hard parenting is or how vulnerable kids really are being unexposed to them. Which makes are culture kind of a rough place to grow up if your parents are having a hard time and can't do the legwork of keeping you safe from it. When we cultivate behaviors in ourselves, and subcultures that celebrate violence, it DOES lead by example whether we want it to our not. What are we leading people into?
posted by xarnop at 10:35 AM on December 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I take it as a given that the way women are displayed in media can be a factor in the self-image problems and eating disorders we're seeing in young women today, so why not see what impact violent games might have? I'm not in favour of just assuming its effects though (and I'm not claiming the article does this, just some people/pundits).

To be honest I'm more concerned about the role that religion and the American military play as far as violence goes, but I'm not against studying the effects of violence in media.
posted by ODiV at 10:36 AM on December 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


There's a huge untapped market for non-violent video games, but it's being ignored because the industry insists on targeting the "18-22 year old male" audience. Foolish of them, if you ask me.

I have never once felt a single thing about a video game character.


These are both huge problems, IMO. I think the solutions are pretty easy, but aren't really likely to actually happen; i.e. refocus from graphical fidelity to art direction so you can deflate bloated budgets and take more risks (and make better looking games with broader appeal than the photorealistic wax puppets that are the norm now), treat games as a really diverse medium conducive to lots of experiences and not just fighting/puzzles, listen to the writers, artists, musicians and other creatives on your development team, try to reach wider audiences and stop paying attention to gamer culture forever...
posted by byanyothername at 10:38 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


et me agree with the author of TFA that parenthood does change your outlook on things. posted by newdaddy

For some people, sure. But aha moments come to non-parents too. Parenting isn't the only path to maturity.

Also, quite frankly, there are plenty of parents who don't change their outlook at all.
posted by agregoli at 10:39 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Basically the violent games have won the market so completely that they've crowded out all competitors. I'm not going to take my elementary school kids into a mall brick-and-mortar store to look for an appropriate game for them because it's such a threatening environment. The game industry should give that a thought. We're basically a market they've entirely abdicated.

I think "entirely abdicated" is going a little too far. If you look at the sales charts, many of the top selling games are violent, but many of them are not. With the Wii platform especially, which is more geared toward family-friendly games, you have to go pretty far down the list to find a game that has a substantial amount of violence.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:40 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Homogeneity is what we have now.

Really? I look at Steam on any given Saturday and see a lot of different types of games on sale, from racing games, to civilization-building strategy, to cooky platformers, to industrial simulations, and revivals of old-school adventure games. With the growing distribution of independent games, handheld/tablet games, and releases of older games for new platforms, I think the gaming market is more diverse than its been in decades.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:40 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]




These are both huge problems, IMO. I think the solutions are pretty easy, but aren't really likely to actually happen; i.e. refocus from graphical fidelity to art direction so you can deflate bloated budgets and take more risks, treat games as a really diverse medium conducive to lots of experiences and not just fighting/puzzles, listen to the writers, artists, musicians and other creatives on your development team, try to reach wider audiences and stop paying attention to gamer culture forever...
posted by byanyothername at 10:38 AM on December 20 [+] [!]


I actually think that hollywood offers more of that diversity than the gaming industry does. That's a terribly low bar to aspire to though.

It is heartening to see a lot of people are thinking about the issue. I know people in the gaming industry that care as well, but I understand that it's very difficult to turn that ship around when you're not at the wheel.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:41 AM on December 20, 2012


This is something we really need to be talking about.

OK. However, the timing of the broader national conversation is suspect, particularly when e.g. Senator Rockefeller proposes to study the "relationship" between video games and violence despite evidence to the contrary. There's a lot of well-poisoning going on by the usual suspects; therefore:

I think discussing people's tastes in games is a good idea, and I think the relationship between real world events and entertainment is always worth discussing. I'm not at all convinced that "the impact of video games" is sufficiently free of presupposition to be a worthwhile way to frame the discussion.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:42 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]



Really? I look at Steam on any given Saturday and see a lot of different types of games on sale, from racing games, to civilization-building strategy, to cooky platformers, to industrial simulations, and revivals of old-school adventure games. With the growing distribution of independent games, handheld/tablet games, and releases of older games for new platforms, I think the gaming market is more diverse than its been in decades.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:40 AM on December 20 [+] [!]


Yeah, I've tried to stress this a few times. I understand that there are games that aren't violence, but the vast majority of big-budget games are. Not all. You've got games like The Sims that understand the breadth of the market, have major funding, and no violence in the mechanism. There's still a loooooooooooooooooong way to go though.

I'm not saying this because I hate games, I'm saying it because I have often liked them, and I want to continue to like them.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:44 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Steam has their big sale on right now.

There are many great savings!

But I'm looking at the top-20 selling games and there are just two games (Football Manager 2013 and Don't Starve!) that do not incorporate violence as a main selling point.

That should give us pause.
posted by Tevin at 10:45 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


My son is just getting into video games; in fact, we bought him a used Wii online and a Star Wars Lego game for it to start (he loves SW Lego). He already plays Cut the Rope, Where's My Water, and the Harry Potter Lego game on our iPad, rather obsessively.

He was also fascinated by/begged to play the Terminator video game at the local movie theater, which is pretty violent and involves shooting a gun at the screen. I didn't forbid him, but I did encourage him to move to the motorcycle race game when he was done.

He doesn't "get" violence when he does see it, as violence. He's too young. But I don't really want to have him spend a lot of time in a world where his game task is to do violence, over and over. A lot of our playing together is about stories, anyway, not about killing. Inventions, capturing bad guys, using magical powers, etc. There's lots of ways to play and triumph that don't involve bullets or exploding guts.
posted by emjaybee at 10:49 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's definitely valid to talk about how media, including video games, affects people.

But comparing video games to guns and game apologists to the NRA is just silly.

If you knew a kid was going to play a violent video game and then take his dad's gun and shoot someone, and you had the choice of which you could remove from his house--the game or the gun--would you even consider removing the game?
posted by straight at 10:50 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, I had a similar reaction several years ago, and it was two things at once. When the first Grand Theft Auto that become a first person shooter (instead of the old goofy top-down version 1 or 2) came out, it was a turning point where it became much more real when you are looking at someone you are shooting in the face and you are seeing the people you are hitting with cars that the old low-res top-down version of the game completely fictionalized. The new version (I think this was GTA3) felt real enough that it made me uncomfortable to play.

A year or two after that, I remember watching the film Children of Men in a theater and that movie was so tense and shocking to me that I basically could never pick up a first person war theme game again. Any sort of xbox shooting-people-in-the-face games remind me of those horrible war scenes in that movie and I totally can't handle it and avoid them.

I play mostly just sports games or side scrollers as a result.
posted by mathowie at 10:53 AM on December 20, 2012 [6 favorites]



I play mostly just sports games or side scrollers as a result.
posted by mathowie at 10:53 AM on December 20 [+] [!]


It seems like the bulk of non-violent games also don't have stories. I don't think that's entirely a game problem, I think it also says something about the role of conflict in western narrative conventions. It's certainly more exaggerated in games than in some other forms of media though.

I had that issue in Red Dead Redemption. The world was so well rendered that I felt kind of guilty for shooting every single animal that passed on the road.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:55 AM on December 20, 2012


This might seem stupid, but in terms of harmful effects of the media on children I would not be against a ban of minors in reality television and heavy restrictions on their participation in other television and film.
posted by ODiV at 10:59 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


An aversion to violence is one of the many reasons I scaled back my video game playing several years ago, and became a so-called "casual" gamer.

It's well known to Hollywood that young males, 12-25 are the only people who routinely come out to see movies in theaters in large numbers. And they tend to influence the movie-going public's consumption patterns more than any other group. This is one of the reasons Hollywood films are, on average, so knuckle-draggingly stupid. In order to be a safe bet for studios, every movie must appeal to the preferences of the average 20 year old American male.

The same effect must be at work in video games. I would love to play a game that requires problem solving and exploration, in which success is measured by cleverness and imagination, but when I look for games that meet that description I don't find any. Instead, I am expected to escape from my humdrum existence by partaking of mass murder.
posted by deathpanels at 11:00 AM on December 20, 2012


My mother shielded me from all violence as a kid, not even allowed to watch Tom and Jerry because violence should never ever be laughed at. I was sent out of the room during all the shootouts in Star Wars. All my transformer toys conveniently lost their guns, no GI Joes or plastic army men for me. I still remember the first time I saw a "violent" movie, it was the 89 Batman on VHS and it scared the crap out of 12yo me.

I LOVED playing guns, I would sneak off with the neighbor kids every chance I got to play cops and robbers, cowboys and indians. I never had toy guns but I could use my finger.
I would make toy guns out of legos and connectix or tree branches.

As an adult I enjoy violent movies and video games.

I think part of our nature is violent and I think we have to spend our entire lives dealing with that. I can understand how fantasy violence could lead to desensitization but I also feel that parents are the #1 cause and resolution. It begins at home and for whatever reason our default answer is to blame outside sources. We do this with everything. Ban homosexuality because if my kid doesn't know about gay sex he won't be gay. Ban rap music because if my kid doesn't hear swear words she won't use them. Ban sugary drinks because my kid loves them.
posted by M Edward at 11:01 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's well known to Hollywood that young males, 12-25 are the only people who routinely come out to see movies in theaters in large numbers.

Of course, if you only make movies that one group likes, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that only they will see movies.

Plus, I just think it's bullshit, I see tons of women at movies and would go to more of them if I could find time. I love good movies.
posted by emjaybee at 11:02 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, you know, I just played Far Cry 3, and enjoyed the heck out of it. The story was laaaaame, but prowling around the island, and, yes, shooting people in the head, was a lot of fun. The mechanics were good, the stealth was unrealistic but amusing, and, well, guns are just fun, even fake ones. I don't think anyone mistakes this for reality; it's no more truly violent than Bugs Bunny cartoons. I imagine, for some, it might even be catharsis, though that's not my motivator at all.

I also enjoyed the hell out of Dishonored, in which I went to great lengths to not kill anyone, even though that was totally an option. If I have the ability to engage in nonlethal combat, or simply avoiding conflict altogether, I will usually take it, because I do like that better. My Garrett didn't kill anyone in his entire career, my Corvo tried very hard but apparently must have accidentally killed someone, since the achievement didn't pop, and my Adam Jensen wouldn't have been a murderer either, if the game didn't force you to kill those three bosses.

But not all games are like that, and that's okay. Fantasy violence is not violence, and people who get the two confused have larger problems than the gamers do.
posted by Malor at 11:04 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lately I've been playing Assassin's Creed 3. I might feel kind of bad about all the hunting, except the absurdity of the situation never allows me to forget that I'm playing a video game: Connor starts off the hunting tutorial by explaining to his friend that the animal's sacrifice is a gift, that they must show it respect, live in harmony with the land, et cetera. The game then hands control of Connor over to me, which means he promptly began killing absolutely every single animal that crosses his path. For some reason, this only keeps getting funnier to me. If I'd been one of the programmers on this game, I'd have put in a thing like Red Dead Redemption where it's possible to hunt a species to extinction (it's only the buffalo in RDR, but still, that's pretty amazing).

Nonviolent games do have stories sometimes, and sometimes they are the best stories: "Your dad, who's kind of an egotistic, verbally abusive asshole for whom nothing you do is ever good enough, happens to be the king of the universe and last night he got smashed and went on a bender and accidentally knocked all the stars out of the sky and he can't be bothered to fix it himself so you have to roll things up into clumps so he can turn them into stars." Yes. Yes, that is a game I will play, I said, and then I did.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:04 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Deathpanels, cite please? Young men are the largest movie-going demographic? Young women must be courted too, if the Twilight films are any indication.
posted by agregoli at 11:04 AM on December 20, 2012


Yeah, I've tried to stress this a few times. I understand that there are games that aren't violence, but the vast majority of big-budget games are. Not all. You've got games like The Sims that understand the breadth of the market, have major funding, and no violence in the mechanism. There's still a loooooooooooooooooong way to go though.

I think the fact that a lot of big budget games are violent right now probably has more to do with the specific video genres that are being made into big budget games at the moment than anything else. Today it's FPS games, Grand Theft Auto clones, and violent RPGs that are the big budget flagship titles for most video game companies. Not too long ago it was racing games, Tony Hawk Pro Skater clones, and non-violent platformers that were in most of the top spots. It's still mostly the same genres, it's just that the relative popularity of each one has shifted towards the genres that are more inherently violent.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:07 AM on December 20, 2012


I think it's interesting that GTA 3 seems to be a game that's made more than a few people quit violent games. While it is very violent, I wonder how much that has to do with the fact that it's possible to commit violence against clearly innocent people rather than "enemies"(and given the driving physics, sometimes impossible not). It is also set in a real world environment rather than something clearly fantastic, which might be part of it as well. Violence in a real looking city against real looking people who are doing nothing wrong seems to be a line for some people, which makes sense, but is interesting.

Sports game are the obvious example of non-violent games that are very popular, but they tend to get less attention in these sorts of conversations in part because they lack stories. I think there might be an interesting space for a sports game that has a story grafted on to a career mode, but I don't think that exists outside one Fight Night game.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:07 AM on December 20, 2012


So, here's an incomplete list of nonviolent games I have for PS3 or PC right now:

Dyad
Sound Shapes
Closure
Gran Turismo 5
Chime Super Deluxe
Grid
Journey
Flower

And games with slight cartoon violence:
Braid
Okami HD
De Blob 2
Machinarium

Looking at the list, I think the issue may be more that the most immersive, narrative rich games also tend to be the most violent. It's really hard for humans to tell a story that doesn't involve buckets of blood because we are weird, disturbed little organisms.
posted by selfnoise at 11:09 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe now is a good time to talk about the INCLUSION of violence and the TREATMENT of violence in games?

Someone brought up Bioshock before. Very violent, but, you know, that's kind of the point. And it made me think about violence and my actions a lot.

Saints Row: The Third. Very violent and ... well, the violence was supposed to be SO AWESOME.

Two games. Both violent. Both with very different treatments of violence.
posted by Tevin at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of non-violent games, I've dearly loved the Endless Ocean games because apparently my favorite things in the world are to pet virtual fish and dig up bottles of soy sauce from the ocean floor. Are there any other sandboxy exploration games that are low on conflict but have some sort of plot to keep you focused?
posted by Copronymus at 11:17 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The difference between the USA and countries with much lower incidence of gun violence is not that the kids in those other countries don't play violent video games. (Nor is there any evidence of a big uptick in gun murders since Doom came out.)
posted by straight at 10:23 AM on December 20 [1 favorite +] [!]


To expand on the above point: modern FPS shooters like Doom were introduced in the early 90's and have progressively gotten more realistic and explicit in their depictions of violence.

However, since the early 90's the violent crime rate in the US has plummeted almost continuously. The homicide rate is less than half what it was in 1991....how do you reconcile these facts with the notion than video games have some sort of cause-effect relation to violence, especially given how ubiquitous FPS games now are with young men?
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 11:23 AM on December 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


how do you reconcile these facts with the notion than video games have some sort of cause-effect relation to violence

The violent crime rate graph you link to, EO, is the cumulative result of countless factors. You are responding to the suggestion that violence in the media is one of these factors. Why do you suggest that this single factor has to be discernible to you on a single chart on Wikipedia for it to warrant measured discussion?
posted by tapesonthefloor at 11:29 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who are you addressing your question to?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:29 AM on December 20, 2012


Why do you suggest that this single factor has to be discernible to you on a single chart on Wikipedia for it to warrant measured discussion?

How can you look at hard numbers that show that you're safer than you've ever been, and instantly find ways to ignore that uncomfortable data?
posted by Malor at 11:31 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The crazy thing is, one result of the Newtown shootings will likely be greater restrictions on violence in videogames - censorship. The NRA implicitly asked for it in its news release, and censorship will likely be offered as a compromise as part of the upcoming proposed reforms.

I may not like FPS's, and I may not want my kids to play them, but I would never want government to decide for me. I'm a parent. I have the responsibility to monitor what media my children consume. Any parent who relies on ratings is being irresponsible.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:34 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tapesonthefloor- I agree the rate is a product of many things, but it seems quite odd to me to focus on video games as a driver of violence when (at a high level at least) the correlation seems to be dramatically in the opposite direction. My question was genuine- how do you reconcile this?
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 11:35 AM on December 20, 2012


All the hand wringing about video game violence seems classist to me. Stories that glorify violence have been popular for thousands of years - to privilege that one form of violent storytelling is somehow, by its very nature, wrong, while older forms of violent storytelling are okay is a very condescending argument to me. "I know what's better for you, now please excuse me while I watch movies and TV and read books that describe violent murder in similar ways."

The difference between Black Hawk Down and Call of Duty is only a matter of subjective aesthetic taste - if you say that Call of Duty is inherently wrong/immoral/etc while Black Hawk Down is morally okay simply because you think it tells a better story, how are you not imposing your aesthetics as morality? "Well this story tells a nuanced story of a real life event, etc etc" That's your opinion - both depict similar types and amounts of violence. Why does your opinion reflect on you morally?

That's what it boils down. If you like violent video games, you are a bad person. You are morally deficient. You can still consume violent media, but only ones approved by an elite cadre of critics and reviewers.

You don't want to be one of them, do you?
posted by clockworkjoe at 11:38 AM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of the interesting things that I have learned here on Metafilter over the years is the difference between the effect that entertainment-based violence has on real life and the effect that entertainment-based sexism has on real life.

On the one hand, we can all see that sexism -- even subtle sexism -- can greatly affect men's attitude toward women and women's views of themselves. It is clear that observing sexist and objectifying behavior in movies/games/television has a direct effect on how males learn to treat females. It is unthinkable that sexual assault or rape would actually be glorified in mainstream entertainment. A movie that portrayed a man running around and raping women with cool seventies songs playing in the background while her ripping clothing and bouncing body parts are shown in slow motion would be tolerated by no one. Anyone who made such a movie would be deemed a monster. Such a movie would cause us to ask the director if he hates women or wants to see women raped.

On the other hand, we can all see that violence -- even blatant, extreme violence -- has no effect at all on how people value the lives of other people. It is clear that observing violent behavior in movies/games/television has no effect whatsoever on how people treat one another. Violence and murder are frequently glorified in mainstream entertainment. A movie that portrays people running around and violently killing people with cool seventies songs playing in the background while blood, bullets, and brain tissue are shown flying through the air in slow motion is not just acceptable, it is praise-worthy.

If I ever do make a movie, I have made a note to myself to make sure that I am not cavalier or stylistic when it comes to portraying sexism or rape. If I want to safely be cavalier or stylistic, I need to just have characters violently killed.
posted by flarbuse at 11:38 AM on December 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


All the hand wringing about video game violence seems classist to me. Stories that glorify violence have been popular for thousands of years

Just because something was done in the past does not make it correct. Compare the EQ of your parents to the EQ of your grandparents. Seventy years ago, corporal punishment was a common method to discipline children - my parents certainly experienced it. It was outlawed in local schools when I was 7, and I do recall kids getting sent to the office to get the strap before that.

Does that make it right? No. Times change.

I'm not saying that violence in videogames is bad, but that you are using faulty logic.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:41 AM on December 20, 2012


And "classism"? Gimme a break. I come from a family of pipefitters, and I still dislike violence in hockey and videogames etc.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:42 AM on December 20, 2012


But I at least, draw a huge distinction between being the actor and perpetrator of simulated violence in a game designed to draw heightened emotions, and watching a movie designed to do almost the same. Repetition builds nueral pathways. Violent videogames reinforce the pathway of shoot and kill...I'm not sure that's strictly the same as watching a violent, non-novel show or movie -designed as the action happens one way, every time. Most games seem set up to surprise, strengthening the emotional response. I'm sure there are studies on this.
posted by agregoli at 11:43 AM on December 20, 2012


Clockwork, I'm not convinced that it's classist... I think it may be generational, though. People who didn't grow up with video games don't see them as legitimate entertainment with cultural value. But they do see movies, TV shows, and other more passive entertainments as culturally valuable.

Honestly, I tend to think about it the other way. I think people don't see the unethical, gross crap in films because they're so used to it.

(also, I think Black Hawk Down is an awful movie, but that's a bit of a derail)
posted by selfnoise at 11:44 AM on December 20, 2012


Honestly, I tend to think about it the other way. I think people don't see the unethical, gross crap in films because they're so used to it.

So how are video games different?
posted by clockworkjoe at 11:46 AM on December 20, 2012


Violent videogames reinforce the pathway of shoot and kill...I'm not sure that's strictly the same as watching a violent, non-novel show or movie -designed as the action happens one way, every time.

Assuming that shoot and kill involves pressing buttons on a keyboard, which is a horror show currently limited to a small number of drone pilots.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:47 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Story telling, acting out dramas, rough housing--- these are old old human traits and have tended to contain violence for thousands of years. I don't think violent video games are to blame for the fact that humans for some reason think violence is cool.

I think the question it leaves me with is... why on earth do humans think violence is cool? Just because it's an urge we have fed for thousands of years, does that mean it worth celebrating? And is that really a trait that we need to feed and support? Is it better to feed the beast in an attempt to fill it with fake violence so that it might not seek the real thing, or is it that violent media increases these proclivities? Neither? Some of both?

I think we have always been violent.We have only recently decided that spousal and child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault are in fact behaviors we should change. That's kind of a new agenda from expecting spouses to remain married to abusive partners and children to endure their circumstance with stoicism.

I think this is a good change, personally. There are a lot of human behaviors that have been quite popularly celebrated in a lot of cultures that are horrifying. I'd like culture to move away from those behaviors. I consider that progress.
posted by xarnop at 11:47 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I tend to think about it the other way. I think people don't see the unethical, gross crap in films because they're so used to it.

So how are video games different?


They aren't. My point was that I don't see FILMS are having MORE value, whereas you seem to be arguing that people see games as having less.
posted by selfnoise at 11:48 AM on December 20, 2012


Assuming that shoot and kill involves pressing buttons on a keyboard, which is a horror show currently limited to a small number of drone pilots.

The idea that video games train you how to shoot people came up in the Sandy Hook thread as well, and my reaction was basically this. I've played violent video games for decades, but none of that has trained me to shoot people. I'm pretty good in a video game where I'm working a joystick, but I'm a lousy shot in real life where shooting a target involves hand eye coordination I don't have and familiarity with weapons that are more complicated than the simple "pres button" weapons of video games.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:50 AM on December 20, 2012


And "classism"? Gimme a break. I come from a family of pipefitters, and I still dislike violence in hockey and videogames etc.

Are you familiar with the work of critical theorists like Barthes and Adorno?
posted by clockworkjoe at 11:50 AM on December 20, 2012


Violent videogames reinforce the pathway of shoot and kill

This is such a deliberately vague, soundbite-ready statement as to be almost unfalsifiable, but I'm still going to need to see the studies that support this idea.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:51 AM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are you familiar with the work of critical theorists like Barthes and Adorno?

The talkers who do the talking? I'll leave them for the talking classes who are smarter than me.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:00 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wasn't talking about training someone to physically shoot and kill someone. I'm talking about emotionally and psychologically. Maybe a "normal" (no one is strictly "normal") person will be fine, but others get a different thrill and disconnection with reality and real pain and violence from it. It's different than a movie, because you are the one driving the action and "practicing" the action. Psychologically to me it's fairly obviously different from violent movies. I don't think acknowledging this means games have to be wiped from the face of the earth, or that people who play them are evil or anything. But why wouldn't there be a psychological and emotional difference between the two?
posted by agregoli at 12:01 PM on December 20, 2012



But comparing video games to guns and game apologists to the NRA is just silly.

If you knew a kid was going to play a violent video game and then take his dad's gun and shoot someone, and you had the choice of which you could remove from his house--the game or the gun--would you even consider removing the game?


this is a mis-read of my reference to the NRA and its tactics. What they do very well is effectively blitzkrieg any attempt to draw a connection between gun violence and the absurd availability of guns and ammo that they constantly argue for.

This is what I don't want to see coming from vid-game lovers -- an immediate and LOUD dismissal of any attempt to engage a conversation about violent games and their possible effects.
posted by philip-random at 12:08 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the interesting things that I have learned here on Metafilter over the years is the difference between the effect that entertainment-based violence has on real life and the effect that entertainment-based sexism has on real life.

I hope one of the things you've picked up is that while consumers of sexist entertainment can frequently be observed also doing sexist things (up to and including sexual assault and rape), it's much more rare for consumers of violent entertainment to commit acts of violence.

Women often perceive the public enjoyment of sexist entertainment as itself a form of sexual harassment or even assault. I think it's much less common for people to perceive the public enjoyment of violence as itself a form of violence or assault.

There's such a thing as fake violence. I'm not sure there is such a thing as fake sexism.
posted by straight at 12:12 PM on December 20, 2012


I have a group of friends who have periodic nerf gun battles, and I'd participate sometimes and it was fun- but after one too many shootings, I couldn't really get behind nerding out about ways to mimic killing people. I think it's basically fine for other people to do it, if that's their thing, but it just started squicking me out, so I stopped.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:13 PM on December 20, 2012


This is what I don't want to see coming from vid-game lovers -- an immediate and LOUD dismissal of any attempt to engage a conversation about violent games and their possible effects.

Because there's no substantial/meaningful difference between violent games and violent movies, TV, comics, music, or other media.

This is a moral panic, pure and simple.
posted by clockworkjoe at 12:14 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because there's no substantial/meaningful difference between violent games and violent movies, TV, comics, music, or other media.

How do you know?
posted by straight at 12:15 PM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a moral panic, pure and simple.

If there is such a thing as "moral panic" panic, this thread is it.
posted by cdward at 12:18 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not moral panic to ask whether or not we want our hobby to be defined by its brutality.

Which it is, currently.
posted by Tevin at 12:18 PM on December 20, 2012


This might seem stupid, but in terms of harmful effects of the media on children I would not be against a ban of minors in reality television and heavy restrictions on their participation in other television and film.
posted by ODiV


It would be stupid. Give me a difference between a documentary and reality TV, that doesn't rely on artistic merit. Give me a clean line that separates between high and low entertainment. Otherwise we're back and pornagraphy, where we have to let a court of the land determine if my entertainment is up to the standards.

But why wouldn't there be a psychological and emotional difference between the two?

Why would there be? The burden of proof is on you. You feel they are different. I'd prefer to not have your feelings determine restrictions on the arts.

We can pretty easily demonstrate the correlation between gun laws and gun crimes in the state. Do you have anything similar?

I don't think acknowledging this means games have to be wiped from the face of the earth, or that people who play them are evil or anything.

Buy what do you mean? People have said before they want to have a discussion about this. Well, we are. What do you want the outcome of this to be? Talk is cheap. What actions should be taken? What limitations, and who should limit?
posted by zabuni at 12:22 PM on December 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not moral panic to ask whether or not we want our hobby to be defined by its brutality.

Well, personally I'm not in much of an position to critique those games because I don't play many of them. I tend to vote with my dollars based on reviews.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:24 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not asking for restrictions on them. I'm saying there could be a psychological difference between types of media. The burden of proof is not on me, I'm not a scientist studying these things.

Why so opposed to that idea of psychological difference in perceiving media? You're not actually trying to refute my point at all with your perspective, which is what a discussion is. I did not advocate restricting games, so why would I want to discuss that angle when I'm not interested in it?
posted by agregoli at 12:26 PM on December 20, 2012


This is a moral panic, pure and simple.

Trust me, I'm not panicking. Trust me, I'm not particularly moral either. Or certainly, not concerned with imposing my morals on others ... as I would find that immoral.

What I'd like to see is a discussion where neither side gets its back up more or less immediately. Until I see some hard science that draws no connection between violent entertainment and violent acts, I think I'm allowed to at least wonder aloud at the possibility of a connection.
posted by philip-random at 12:28 PM on December 20, 2012


But why wouldn't there be a psychological and emotional difference between the two?

Why would there be? The burden of proof is on you. You feel they are different.


There is a burden of proof to show video games are harmful if you want to do something to restrict them, yes.

But as far as a purely intellectual inquiry, I'd think the burden of proof is on those who would say that two clearly different things (video games and movies, for instance) are essentially the same.
posted by straight at 12:29 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


So there could be differences. Speculating on the differences is useless in determining anything, and is ripe for public opinion on what's going on at the moment. We had people speculating that pornagraphy made people sex crazed maniacs, while the number of sex crimes report wained. And as fewer people are getting married, and having kids, we see people try to say that pornagraphy is causing men to become not interested in sex. We have fewer and fewer murders every year, and yet more violent media.

While this correlation does not equal causation, but also I'm not the one trying to extrapolate from a few isolated events.
posted by zabuni at 12:34 PM on December 20, 2012


It would be stupid. Give me a difference between a documentary and reality TV, that doesn't rely on artistic merit.

A salary.
posted by ODiV at 12:57 PM on December 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Y'know, I watched a ten-minute promo video for Far Cry 3 yesterday, and I'd be all about it... but there was just enough about the premise to make me worry that the "kidnapped friends" storyline would get kinda rapey, and I really don't want to play a video game with that.

Tangential to the extremely high level of intellectual inquiry and discourse otherwise happening here--rivaled only by how closely and well people read the actual essay--your specific worry is well-founded. Far Cry 3's main plot is pretty dire in all sorts of ways. It's worsened rather than helped by how earnestly clumsy the sheer disconnect between the writer's intent and result was. (Link contains plot spoilers aplenty.)
posted by Drastic at 1:03 PM on December 20, 2012


If you're implying that I'm extrapolating from a few isolated events, I'm not doing that either. But it seems you aren't actually interested in discussing this, which is a shame, because I think its an interesting topic.
posted by agregoli at 1:07 PM on December 20, 2012


But it seems you aren't actually interested in discussing this

Please don't assume that I am discussing this in bad faith.
posted by zabuni at 1:19 PM on December 20, 2012


Actually, there's a fair bit of research into differences between interactive media such as video games and passive media such as television and cinema. However, quite a bit of it suggests that interactive media is cognitively better than television and cinema. There's been some good research on simulations as therapy for anxiety disorders and PTSD, and game-like frames for teaching CBT.

There are some downsides: gaming isn't more physical than television, there's a mild correlation between depression and gaming, although it's not clear which way the causative arrow runs.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:26 PM on December 20, 2012


Am I the only one who treats FPS's, especially multiplayer, as essentially a virtual game of "tag"? Anyone who is actually practiced at these games does not see bloody corpses, they see pixels -- otherwise they wouldn't be any good at them.

"Violence" seems like too broad a category to discuss correctly. It puts nerf warfare, head shots on aliens, shooting spaceships & zombies in the same category as realistic portrayals of rape and murder. There's a level of abstraction that, when crossed, might venture too far -- but I'm not sure where that is.

Maybe the limit is a game where you inflict something approximating true pain and suffering, which is decidedly not what happens in a lot of FPS's I've played regardless of their advertising materials.

For me, GTA begins to cross that line -- I have no idea about the war games. I older ones I played (and was bored by) seemed mostly about tag with team strategy than inflicting pain.
posted by smidgen at 1:45 PM on December 20, 2012


For me, GTA begins to cross that line

Maybe I saw it as more of an effect based thing. I've been killing thousands of people in various atrocities in Civilization and the like. Nerve stapling, destroying cities, nuclear weapons. I've made enough actions where the consequences were deaths in the thousands. Killing a single person seemed minor.
posted by zabuni at 2:10 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't play any video games that involve killing and there are a lot of options, though it seems like they don't put much money into them, so they seem primitive. Pokemon, Animal Crossing, Yoshi, Mario, Kirby. I love these games.

Say what you want about violent movies though, there is something else about placing yourself in the shoes of a murderer, particularly given how realistic and gory these games have gotten.

But the only time I really felt like a psychopath is when I was playing The Sims...
posted by melissam at 2:25 PM on December 20, 2012


Okay, I won't - but you've given little for me to respond to, except to point out how you've mischaracterized what I was trying to say.

Speculating on the differences is something worth doing, in my opinion. Since I haven't gone off on a wild tangent like your examples, I'm not sure what's so useless about talking about it here.
posted by agregoli at 2:27 PM on December 20, 2012


There's been some good research on simulations as therapy for anxiety disorders and PTSD, and game-like frames for teaching CBT.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:26 PM on December 20


I would love to know more about this, especially about actual games I could play, but google is failing me, probably because I am searching for the wrong things. Any resources?
posted by joannemerriam at 2:28 PM on December 20, 2012


Here's a New Yorker article on gaming therapy for PTSD
posted by KokuRyu at 2:31 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


For me, I just see parallels between the fear over video games and Seduction of the Innocent and the Senate hearings on juvenile delinquency

Homicide rates have been declining since the 1990s and mass murders and spree killings have been around a long time. The worst mass murder in US History is still the Bath School disaster, which happened in 1927.

These facts make it impossible for me to see any correlation between violent video games and actual violence. If anything media wise is to blame, it's the mass reportage that happens in the aftermath and the reason there's so much coverage of these tragedies is because the public demands it. People that devour every story about Newton, watch all the coverage they can, and then point fingers at video games are hypocrites.
posted by clockworkjoe at 2:32 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seems like a therapy designed specifically for veterans, but if you contacted the researchers mentioned in the piece, they may have some suggestions.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:32 PM on December 20, 2012


Maybe the limit is a game where you inflict something approximating true pain and suffering, which is decidedly not what happens in a lot of FPS's I've played regardless of their advertising materials.

Well if you look at say horror films, they feature actual people as actors and fairly realistic effects that to me at least are more viscerally violent to me than any violent video game I've played. Even the most over-the-top violent games don't really approach the level of pain and suffering simulation that pretty much any horror movie features. I think a lot of it is in the presentation, the default reaction for me at least is realizing that it's all pretend and that no one is in any real danger or will be harmed, whereas horror films and games that have the same sorts of aims will purposely trick the viewer into becoming emotionally invested in the events on screen. Multiplayer FPS games tend to do very little to to try to make the player emotionally invested in the fact that the game is simulating people being killed, whereas a game like Grand Theft Auto does a little more to try to present death in the game as being a big deal, but still no where near the level of what most horror movies do. When people complain about video games not being engaging on a narrative level in the same way that a film is, I think the same can be said about most games when it comes to violence, even if part of the intention of the game is to focus on realistic violence.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:46 PM on December 20, 2012


Data is fun!

If only people in The Netherlands and South Korea were shooting the shit out of people. Then the gun nuts and buzzkills could become an unstoppable team trying to stop frat boys playing Call of Duty and then going on rampages.

Sadly, we're back to blaming easy access to guns for the carnage in the United States and the same old unsexy shitfight goes on.
posted by Talez at 4:20 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would love to know more about this, especially about actual games I could play, but google is failing me, probably because I am searching for the wrong things. Any resources?

superbetter is a CBT-based web "game."

SPARX was developed for teens with depression
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:26 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't have the endurance to read through so I hope I'm not repeating too much that's already been said.

1. Violent video games don't cause violence, nor do they "desensitize":

http://ideas.time.com/2012/12/20/sandy-hook-shooting-video-games-blamed-again/


2. I'd be interested to know how many people enjoy violent video games, but conclude that they cause violence, and how many don't like them but conclude that they don't cause violence. That is, I wonder to what extent people's preferences drive their opinions here.

3. Seems to me that there's a big difference between video games in which you are shooting bad guys or zombies or whatever and those in which you are viciously murdering innocent people (e.g. GTA). It's hard for me to see any objections to e-wasting the cannibalistic bandit killers in Borderlands 2...

Incidentally, nothing I've ever seen in video games comes close to the perverse Saw movies. Man. those things are just disgusting.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:09 PM on December 20, 2012


All I know is that I find combat and violence to be a chore in my favorite games? I loved DX: HR and Dishonored, but it would be great to have a no violence setting, bumping you back to your latest save if you fail and are caught. It would be fun to tweak those settings.

I also hate how every random animal is apparently suicidal in sandbox rpgs. I want to play Bethesda games without the awful combat systems.
posted by kittensofthenight at 5:23 PM on December 20, 2012


The data is clear - there is no evidence of a link between violence in games, and violence in real life. There have been a lot of studies on this already. A handful of flawed studies that used poor analogs for aggression have shown very slight links, but those are the only ones that get quoted by the anti-game brigade.

The best approach, as in drug-test analysis, is to use meta-studies (for further reading on why meta-studies are a good idea, look up Dr Ben Goldacre, of Bad Science fame).

One meta-study completed a few years ago that looked at all the studies exhaustively, and concluded there was no link between aggression and media violence, or game violence in particular.

The American Psychological Association has revised its position, and now state
"Violent video games are like peanut butter," said Christopher J. Ferguson, of Texas A&M International University. "They are harmless for the vast majority of kids but are harmful to a small minority with pre-existing personality or mental health problems."

He added that studies have revealed that violent games have not created a generation of problem youngsters.

"Recent research has shown that as video games have become more popular, children in the United States and Europe are having fewer behavior problems, are less violent and score better on standardized tests,"
Also this graph is interesting - not for the trend line as shown on Talez' version, but the very clear outlier - the US. Towards the low end for video-game spending per-capita, but 12x or more the rate of other countries for gun-related murders.

Fair enough that you want more games that explore things other than hyper-violence. Fair enough you don't enjoy that kind of game. I fully support that. Personally, I still enjoy the odd game of TF2 or battlefield 3, for the teamwork, alongside my anno 2070 and portal. I am looking forward to playing Far Cry 3 soon. But I'd love more games like portal and non violent stealth and RPGs, not least because violence can be a cheap excuse to avoid bothering about a plot. Fair enough you want to keep them out of the hands of children - that should be the choice of parents, not me.

But gamers, including myself get very twitchy when politicians and the NRA start pointing their fingers at video games as a possible cause of the very high number of gun injuries and deaths - accidental and murder - in the US, when the evidence is already clear that there is no link. There have certainly been enough attempts to censor games for adults already, despite the evidence. It smacks of shifting the finger of blame to avoid anyone looking too closely at the gun lobby.

There IS a strong link between gun controls and deaths/injuries - better controls lead to less, as shown across various states in the US.

The US has a clear gun violence problem. Keeping guns out of the hands of children (trigger safeties, gun safes etc) and the mentally ill through strict registration and sales controls does have a far greater effect upon the deaths of children and bystanders to guns in the US than any restrictions upon video games ever could. And those gun deaths are not replaced by knife deaths or car deaths, there is an overall fall of violent injuries/deaths in total, not just to guns.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:09 PM on December 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


2. I'd be interested to know how many people enjoy violent video games, but conclude that they cause violence, and how many don't like them but conclude that they don't cause violence. That is, I wonder to what extent people's preferences drive their opinions here.

The idea of "violence" needs to be qualified. Are we talking abstract strategic violence in terms of Chess, Risk, isometric RPGs like Baldur's Gate, tower defense games, or Civilization V? Random cartoon violence like cow plants, and electrocution in Sims 2? Cartoony ability spam violence of action RPGs, platformers, mmorpgs, and adventure games? Or FPS/TPS horror-survival and combat simulation fare?

(There are a fair number of games that don't quite fit into any of the above categories. There's Limbo, which may very well be the only perfect game I've seen in the last 10 years, but is perfectly designed to be horrible and creepy. So I've not gotten very far.)

I don't think any of them cause violence. (Although curiously no one has ever deemed Kasparov a threat to the monarchies of England and The Netherlands in spite of a career sacrificing and killing queens.) I do tend to prefer my video game violence on the more abstract number-crunching end.

Perhaps one of the reasons why games don't seem to inspire violence is because if it's worth gaming, it's worth metagaming. On one level I'm killing NPCs and possibly other players. But on the narrative level, Chess is a slaughter, and Go is a siege. (*) On another level it's a numbers game like bridge. I know the power of my hand, and I can make a good guess at what exists around the table. So I plan my tactics to maximize my advantages and minimize those of my opponent. At the end, we shake hands, and say "good game." Digital PvE and PvP is pretty much the same. Numbers against numbers. Rock, paper, shotgun.

If I'm playing against a software script, I'm going to metagame the heck out of it, figure out just what that script is doing, and how I can exploit that script's behavior to my advantage. On one level, the mobs are a line in a database. On the other, they're minor characters in a scripted interactive video.

And that's a big reason why I consider games and puzzles. (I don't make a distinction between digital and physical media) to be a better form of entertainment than television (especially given the sorry state of "documentary" TV and news these days). If you want to compete, win, or just do better than your last round, you need to understand the rules, their logic, and the resulting strategies. If you need help (and I sometimes do), there's entire communities out there devoted to helping you become a better player.

(*) Interestingly, while I have no problem butchering infantry, bishops, knights, and queens one move at a time, and systematically backing the king into a corner of dispair, the thought of playing cards for money gives me the chills.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:29 PM on December 20, 2012


One meta-study completed a few years ago that looked at all the studies exhaustively, and concluded there was no link between aggression and media violence, or game violence in particular.

This is going to be one of those things that, like a retraction to false allegations, everybody pretends they didn't hear so they can keep on pontificating about their pet theories, isn't it?

But not all games are like that, and that's okay. Fantasy violence is not violence, and people who get the two confused have larger problems than the gamers do.

I've often thought that, too. If video game violence seems indistinguishable from real life violence to someone, it's not because games are that realistic; it's because that person if blissfully, blessedly removed from any real life violence.

my Corvo tried very hard but apparently must have accidentally killed someone, since the achievement didn't pop

For the record: it's goddamn Granny Rags. Even if you tranq her, she still registers as a kill (because of the locket, I suppose).
posted by Amanojaku at 8:20 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]



But not all games are like that, and that's okay. Fantasy violence is not violence, and people who get the two confused have larger problems than the gamers do.




I've often thought that, too. If video game violence seems indistinguishable from real life violence to someone, it's not because games are that realistic; it's because that person if blissfully, blessedly removed from any real life violence.


The content of games can be troubling, offensive, or generally have a negative impact on someone's emotional well being without being indistinguishable from reality.

...obviously?
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:44 PM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Data is fun! [sic]

For the record, you would have to adjust for the ease of access to firearms in each nation for that chart to be particularly meaningful in this conversation.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 6:47 AM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's because that person if blissfully, blessedly removed from any real life violence

Is this the part of the thread where someone links to a YouTube video of the hyperrealistic immersion of games like Call of Duty: Black Ops II wherein your twelve-year-old cousin interacts with the bombing, exploding world around him for 6.5 hours a day solely through the use of a firearm?
posted by tapesonthefloor at 6:55 AM on December 21, 2012


Is this the part of the thread where someone links to a YouTube video of the hyperrealistic immersion of games like Call of Duty: Black Ops II wherein your twelve-year-old cousin interacts with the bombing, exploding world around him for 6.5 hours a day solely through the use of a firearm?

Do you play video games? I ask because it seems like the people who find these games hyperrealistic aren't usually people who play them. There's so much in a game that breaks the immersion and makes it clear that what's going isn't reality. There's the kind of pop up text and symbols and maps and things that you never see in real life. There's the metagaming that's mentioned above; anyone who is playing these games seriously usually sees the game underneath what's being represented on the screen. Six enemies aren't six people who need to be killed, they're six problems that have solutions; FPSs are, in a way, puzzles. While the graphics look realistic, the actual game play is a lot more abstract than that. The comparison to chess is surprisingly apt. A person on a screen in a video game looks more like a real person than a chess piece, but they play the same role. There's also the issue of repetition. You die in these games, sometimes you die a lot. That seemingly very immersive and realistic violence looks a lot less so when you see it happen five times in a row.

I play a lot of video games, and while the best parts are the times I feel immersed in the game world, that's a really hard trick to pull off and most games fail at it. Combat games, if anything, fail more because they typically feature more restarts. I'd agree that playing Call of Duty 6.5 hours a day is a problem, but that's because that's way too much time to be playing video games.

Also because Call of Duty isn't very good.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:19 AM on December 21, 2012


Six enemies aren't six people who need to be killed, they're six problems that have solutions; FPSs are, in a way, puzzles.

I agree. It's my experience that especially the early "tutorial" levels tend to reinforce that by introducing you to the elements one by one. (I'll admit, I don't do FPS/TPS aside from their RPG variants that allow me to do a pause-plan-execute cycle. But I'm a bit burned out on them.) Here's cover, here's concealment, here's an opportunity to take advantage of field of vision, here's melee combat, here's ranged combat, here's a magical ammunition drop just as you're running low, here's a new weapon you can use, here's a plot hook, here's a choke-point you can use as a force-multiplier, but wait, here's a mob scripted to get in in your blind spot.

The Valve commentary to Portal provides a fair bit of detail about how scaffolding progressive difficulty was designed into the game, and now I can't unsee it when I look at level/map design in other games. I'm not playing against the puppets that appear on the screen, I'm playing against the people who designed the encounter and the AI.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:53 AM on December 21, 2012


Fists O'Fury: “I didn't have the endurance to read through...”

Clearly.
posted by koeselitz at 8:23 AM on December 21, 2012


Yep. I've only ever played Pong, so am not equipped to comment on violent video games. I can comment on the attitude of some gamers toward any criticism of their preferred choice of entertainment however, and extremely defensive is how I would describe some of them.

It should be noted that video games were only declared protected under the First Amendment by the Supreme Court last year. So I think it's understandable if many gamers don't consider many of the criticisms, particularly where violence is concerned, to be in good faith.

The content of games can be troubling, offensive, or generally have a negative impact on someone's emotional well being without being indistinguishable from reality.

...obviously?


To a unique and notable degree? Maybe, maybe not. But that's irrelevant. It's kind of like in a feminism thread: if the comment doesn't apply to you, then the comment isn't about you. If you're not one of the people -- more in the media than in this thread, but not exclusively so -- pontificating about how realistic games are, how photo-realistic they look, how they can so easily train kids to fire weapons, how desensitized fantasy violence must make people to real violence ... then I guess I'm not talking about you and any general discomfort you may have.
posted by Amanojaku at 8:25 AM on December 21, 2012


ArkhanJG: “The data is clear - there is no evidence of a link between violence in games, and violence in real life. There have been a lot of studies on this already. A handful of flawed studies that used poor analogs for aggression have shown very slight links, but those are the only ones that get quoted by the anti-game brigade.”

Maybe you can go find the anti-game brigade and argue with them. Go on, find them. I'll probably help you. Since they're not in this thread, we might have to do some digging.

Amanojaku: “It should be noted that video games were only declared protected under the First Amendment by the Supreme Court last year. So I think it's understandable if many gamers don't consider many of the criticisms, particularly where violence is concerned, to be in good faith.”

Assuming arguments aren't in good faith without even examining them? Gee, that seems like a great way to proceed.
posted by koeselitz at 8:28 AM on December 21, 2012


Maybe you can go find the anti-game brigade and argue with them. Go on, find them. I'll probably help you. Since they're not in this thread, we might have to do some digging.

They're not? Because there are quite a few folks are making the same claims.

Assuming arguments aren't in good faith without even examining them? Gee, that seems like a great way to proceed.

I don't necessarily disagree; I'm simply pointing out that the cynicism is understandable: the last folks who confused taste with morality on the topic tried to ban or legislate the form. I can see why people might have doubts about the ultimate agenda of this batch.
posted by Amanojaku at 8:37 AM on December 21, 2012


Maybe you can go find the anti-game brigade and argue with them. Go on, find them.

A clarification; the 'anti-game brigade' phrase was shorthand for those who seek to attack gamers and gaming at any opportunity; who will use any study that shows any link, no matter its flaws or its having been refuted by many others; those in the media, politics and lobbyists who ride their hobby horse in public, at length and with volume. Those who ignore the large amount of evidence collected so far when it does not support their arguments; to whit, that gaming is a moral danger, that gamers are dangerous, and we should censor games to protect the children.

It did not refer to anyone in this thread. Apologies if I was unclear.

That said, there had been a bit of a lack of clarity over what the current state of research into game violence and its impact upon real-life aggression - i.e. there is no link for the vast majority of children, let alone adults - which is what I was intending to clear up.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:43 AM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Worrying about video game violence and becoming less sensitive to real life violence as a consequence is utterly, utterly stupid, akin to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as long as you live in a country where every loon can walk into a gun shot and get enough weaponry to fight a small war.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:41 AM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


For the record, you would have to adjust for the ease of access to firearms in each nation for that chart to be particularly meaningful in this conversation.

Good point, though you have to admit it's almost the only data, flawed as it is, in this conversation. It's a bit more useful than something like "your twelve-year-old cousin interacts with the bombing, exploding world around him for 6.5 hours a day solely through the use of a firearm" which, despite its vividness, gives us no data.
posted by ODiV at 10:54 AM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Worrying about video game violence and becoming less sensitive to real life violence as a consequence is utterly, utterly stupid, akin to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as long as you live in a country where every loon can walk into a gun shot and get enough weaponry to fight a small war.

"There exists in this country a callous, corrupt, and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people. ... Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, and Splatterhouse. And here's one: it's called Kindergarten Killers. It's been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn't or didn't want anyone to know you had found it?"

"Then there's the blood-soaked slasher films like American Psycho and Natural Born Killers that are aired like propaganda loops on Splatterdays and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it entertainment. But is that what it really is? Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?"

NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre

I guess he finds violent video games troubling and/or offensive; he probably just wants to have a dialog about it; I'm sure there's no reason gamers should be defensive.
posted by Amanojaku at 2:56 PM on December 21, 2012


Assuming arguments aren't in good faith without even examining them? Gee, that seems like a great way to proceed.

And, oh look: here we are again.

"Major corporations, including the video game industry, make billions on marketing and selling violent content to children. They have a responsibility to protect our children. If they do not, you can count on the Congress to take a more aggressive role."

I'm quite sure I have no idea what that might entail. How unreasonable of gamers to feel besieged by these criticisms!
posted by Amanojaku at 3:01 PM on December 21, 2012


Mr. Lapierre and his org have me questioning my tone through this thread. Suddenly, it's all very political. In that light, an AskMe from a while back ...
posted by philip-random at 8:43 PM on December 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sigh. Okay, well, I guess the conversation we were trying to have in this thread waits for another time. Don't fool yourself that anybody here was asking for legislation; but if the current events overwhelm any room we have for discussing the impact of violence, so be it.
posted by koeselitz at 9:17 PM on December 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey, I'm interested in that conversation, but yeah, it's super easy to get sidetracked and I'm as guilty of that as anyone. whoops

There are a hell of a lot of games out there right now that are violent and mindless in ways that aren't really up to the level of dignity and respect that humanity deserves.

Do you feel that it's mostly modern graphics that have brought us to this point? As far as I can remember games have pretty much been as violent as they are now in terms of objectives and such, though that's probably a pretty tricky thing to quantify. Is it the ability to render violence full-screen in colour with some degree of realism that makes games now less dignified than the games of old? Or is it something else?
posted by ODiV at 10:42 PM on December 21, 2012


Do you feel that it's mostly modern graphics that have brought us to this point? As far as I can remember games have pretty much been as violent as they are now in terms of objectives and such, though that's probably a pretty tricky thing to quantify. Is it the ability to render violence full-screen in colour with some degree of realism that makes games now less dignified than the games of old? Or is it something else?

As others have pointed out, violence is not new in games in general. Carnival games that make you shoot at rabbit targets to win a prize are as violent as many video games. Almost any gaming based on hitting a target in general, whether you are "shooting" a gun, arrow, or cannon, is simply play-warfare, after all. A real-life snowball game pushes all the same triggers as a video game, in terms of how you see your opponents/targets.

At the same time, I think it's all right to ask the question: if games do become more immersive/more like real experiences, and if game creators were to include actions that more closely mimicked actual killing or torture (and rewarded players who did it most enthusiastically) would that have a bad or traumatizing effect? The technology is not there yet, but the potential seems clear that it could be someday. Would we draw lines and say, no, you can't put that in your game?
posted by emjaybee at 9:12 AM on December 26, 2012


KokoRyu - I come from a family of pipefitters

I read that as "hard, pipe-hittin' [censored], who'll go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. You hear me talkin', hillbilly boy? I ain't through with you by a damn sight. I'ma get medieval on your ass." But maybe that's because my neural pathways have been seared by over exposure to violent language. /hamburger

mathowie - I remember watching the film Children of Men in a theater and that movie was so tense and shocking to me that I basically could never pick up a first person war theme game again.

I had a similar reaction, I think it is partly the post-apocalyptic backdrop, which is so familiar from multitudes of games. I found myself thinking 'something cool's going to happen now', but instead you see a far more realistic sequence of death and hopelessness.

I worked through it and kept playing TF2. Although that may have been due to happy times spent on the Mefightclub server inspiring me to persevere. To be fair I don't play any other FPS.

I think there is something connecting the instant gratification and self fulfillment advertised by modern society, sociopatic corporations, the 'magic bullet' approach of modern medicine, political and economic short termism, and using the gun as the ultimate problem solver in Hollywood media and main stream computer games. You could blame last years riots in the UK on GTA3 style philosophy, but would people have behaved as they did if they felt that politicians were listening to them, the police were doing more than shooting first and asking questions later and there could be some reward expected for working hard for something rather than just taking it?
posted by asok at 4:01 AM on December 27, 2012


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